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Discussion with OpenWetWare people

5 November 2007 3 Comments

This morning I got to sit down with Bill Flanagan, Barry Canton, Austin Che, and Jason Kelly and throw some ideas around about electronic notebooks. This is an approximate summary of some of the points that came out of this. This may be a bit of brain dump so I might re-edit later.

  1. Neither Wikis nor Blogs provide all the functionality required. Wikis are good at providing a framework that within which to organise information where as blogs are good at logging information and providing it in a journal format. Barry showed me a hack that he uses in his Wiki based notebook that essentially provides a means of organising his lab book into experiments and projects but also provides a date style view. In the Southampton system we would achieve this through creating categories for different experiments, possibly independent blogs for different projects.
  2. Feature requests at Southampton has been driven largely by me which means that system is being driven by the needs of the PI. At OpenWetWare the development has been driven by grad students which means it has focussed on their issues. The question was raised of where the best place to ‘promote’ these systems was. Is it the PI’s who, at least at the moment, will get the greatest tangible benefits from the system. Or is it better to persuade grad students to take this up as they are the end users. Both have very different needs.
  3. Development based on the needs of a single person is unlikely to take us forward as the needs of a specific person are probably not general enough to be useful. Development should focus on enabling the interactions between people, therefore the minimum size ‘user unit’ is two (PI plus researcher, or group of researchers).
  4. The biggest wins for these systems are where collaboration is required and is enabled by a shared space to work in. This is shown by the IGEM lab books and by uptake by my collaborators in the UK. This will be the best place to take development forward.

I need to add links to this post but will do so later.


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  • Cameron, great to talk today. Just wanted to make clear that the hack on my wiki to allow sorting by project and date is largely based on some smart templates written by Austin Che.

    The other point I’d make about that hack is that both Austin and I use it, but in totally separate ways. Austin more commonly uses the date organized view, I use the project organized view. I think it’s important that any lab notebook solution be flexible enough to allow different users to use it in whatever way makes most sense to them.

  • Cameron, great to talk today. Just wanted to make clear that the hack on my wiki to allow sorting by project and date is largely based on some smart templates written by Austin Che.

    The other point I’d make about that hack is that both Austin and I use it, but in totally separate ways. Austin more commonly uses the date organized view, I use the project organized view. I think it’s important that any lab notebook solution be flexible enough to allow different users to use it in whatever way makes most sense to them.